Writing from the Heart: Out of the mouth of babes

From a 6-year-old comes a pool of calm, deep breaths.


Remember Bush Jr.’s No Child Left Behind?

It was a lofty idea that didn’t work then, and with one in five children living below the poverty line today, it’s obvious that 15 million children have been left behind.

A month ago, I vacationed in Naples, Fla., and I met 6-year-old Jack in the pool where I was staying. 

He said, “I bet you can’t guess my birthday.” “Dec. 20th,” I said. “Nooooooo,” he practically screamed with delight. “Um,” I pretended to think, “July 9th?” “Nooooo!” he yelled even more enthusiastically. “April 7th?” I asked. This time he was almost apoplectic in his joy when he sang “Nooooooo.” And then he said, “Do you give up?” And I said “Yup.” And then with this grave, serious look on his face, he said, “You should never give up!” Wow, I thought. The kid is 6? And he just said you should never give up? I said, “That’s profound, Jack. That’s really cool that you know that.” 

He continued, “I had a little meltdown when we first got here yesterday.” I said, “What happened?” He said, “Well, I had new goggles, and they broke immediately.” By this time, the mom had floated over to the shallow end where Jack and I were talking. She said, “And what do we do when we are frustrated, Jack?” He said, “We switch our attitude to gratitude.” “And what else, Jack?” He said, “Deep breaths, deep breaths.” 

Now I’m blown away. And I want a do-over raising my poor kids.

I said, “Your boy is very special. I mean all of our kids are, but this little guy … wow!” 

She said, “Well, he goes to a private school, and they have mindfulness training. They actually meditate each morning.” Now I’m gobsmacked. A 6-year-old is meditating? He’s learning coping skills for stress? Are you kidding me? It thrills me that he is getting the best of the best. But then it breaks my heart that every kid isn’t getting the best of the best. 

What kind of world are we living in that kids are hungry? And how can you learn if you’re hungry? How can you concentrate if you haven’t eaten? How can you function if you are hungry? When my stomach has even an inclination to growl, I get to feed it immediately. 

How does it feel to be the mother of a hungry child? How do Bush and all the other politicians before and since, who are letting this happen, feel knowing about all the children who got left behind? 

How do I feel? Horrible. Just heartbreakingly horrible. There are so many injustices right now. It’s overwhelming and frustrating. I don’t have answers or solutions. I only have outrage. 

I’ll take a page from Jack’s playbook.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.